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South Asia Without Borders Seminar

Muhammad Zahir, SAI Aman Fellow; Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, Hazara University, Pakistan

Chair: Richard Meadow, Director of the Zooarchaeology Laboratory, Harvard Peabody Museum; Senior-Lecturer, Harvard Anthropology Department

The protohistoric cemeteries in northwestern Pakistan, commonly known as the Gandhara Grave Culture of Pakistan, have primarily been explained in terms of migrations and as an expression of particular ethnicities (e.g. Aryans) by a select group of archaeologists since early 1960s. The deconstruction of these archaeological traditions exposes their inner inconsistencies, circular arguments and shows that the past explanations of these cemeteries were more relevant to the academic and political environments of the main researchers than to the cemeteries or presumed ethnicities.

The re-analyses and interpretations of these protohistoric cemeteries show these cemeteries as part of burial traditions that transcended different geographical regions, ethnic groups and archaeological cultures, from the beginning of second millennium BC to the end of 1st millennium AD.  However, the Aryans’ story, as imagined to have been supported by hard evidence from these cemeteries, is so often repeated in the archaeology of Pakistan that it has become an archaeological factoid, which is transmitted without any questioning in research publications and research theses.  This, in turn, has supported the identification of their biological and cultural successors in different modern ethnic groups in Pakistan, for example the Pathans, and has become an integral part of their origin stories.

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